https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2021/12/jay-rosens-dishonest-double-game.php

Jay Rosen is a journalism professor and media critic. Like most who make their living this way, he’s a hardcore partisan leftist.

Rosen considers the GOP an authoritarian party. He views it as abnormal, unlike the Democrats.

He believes, therefore, that it’s a mistake for journalists to report on politics as if there are two normal parties. Rather, their reporting should reflect the fact (as Rosen sees it) that we have one genuine political party that’s clashing with an authoritarian force seeking to destroy American democracy.

What does this mean in practice? When Ross Douthat raised this question during a podcast, Rosen said:

One has to report what’s happening in politics. I think there are tons of legitimate criticisms to be made of Biden, including some from the left as well as from the right.

So it’s maintaining some sense of proportion when you have a normal president doing normal things within a normal party and trying to act normally like a leader, and a rogue figure who has, through the political movement that he created, the engine of which is the denial of reality or straight-up lying — the comparison between the two is bizarre.

And so I think this is what journalists have to recognize, not that they should be nice towards Biden, but that, when they are critical, they have to set what he’s doing within this larger context, and that’s not always what I see.

He also suggested that journalists set up a clock to inform readers just how close we are to a Trump-induced “collapse.”

Clearly, then, Rosen doesn’t want journalists to cover Republicans and Democrats the same way. It’s not just the ludicrous Trump clock.

If journalists criticize Biden, they should offset that criticism by reminding readers of the “larger context” — that Biden is what stands between America and collapse due to a rogue figure who leads an authoritarian movement. No such offsetting or discussion of larger context — for example, that Republicans are trying to prevent the radical transformation of America’s economy and its institutions (e.g., the Supreme Court and the Electoral College) that many Democrats avowedly seek — is in order when journalists attack the GOP.

There’s nothing original in this view. Similar thoughts have been expressed by more important media critics than Rosen, for example the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan. And, indeed, the kind of journalism they call for is practiced quite often at organs like the Post. Rosen may not “always see it,” but often enough it’s there for all to see.

If Rosen deserves points for originality, it’s because, at the same time he advocates that journalists cover Democrats and Republicans differently — because one is a normal party and the other is not — he also says “I don’t think journalists should put their thumb on the scale for the Democrats.”

John Sexton calls this an incoherent position. I call it dishonest. The kind of coverage Rosen desires, as described above, obviously amounts to putting a thumb on the scale for the Democrats.

Sexton’s piece draws from Rosen’s podcast encounter with Douthat. The two of them — Sexton and Douthat — do an effective job of exposing Rosen’s incoherent partisanship.

I want to add two points. First, Trump isn’t the first Republican president whom Rosen deemed abnormal — an affront to norms. In this rambling 2007 post, Rosen accused George W. Bush of leading “a retreat from empiricism.” He claimed that under Bush and Dick Cheney, “reality-based policy-making—and the mechanisms for it—ha[s] gotten dumped.”

A different pattern. . .appeared under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The normal checks and balances had been overcome, so that executive power could flow more freely.

As he does now, Rosen claimed to see something in the Bush 43 presidency that departed from the norms established by past presidents, Republican and Democrat:

The contrast I would draw is between the actions of Bush, a political innovator, and the behavior of previous presidents, Republican and Democrat. . .[The Bush administration] simply does not behave as previous governments have behaved when presented with the tools of the presidency, which includes [sic] the media, and the greatest public address system in the world: the White House podium and backdrop.

Rosen’s screed did not include any analysis to support his claim that Bush’s use of the tools of the presidency differed appreciably from that of Nixon, Reagan, or even Bush 41. He simply asserted a difference so he could pretend that his attack on Bush 43 wasn’t based on party favoritism, but rather on the alleged abnormality of the current Republican president.

Now, Rosen is trying to do the same thing with Trump.

Rosen has a better case with Trump and some of his Republican supporters than he did with Bush. However, he vastly and shrilly overstates that case, while disregarding Democratic abnormalities (it’s been the better part of a century since Democrats seriously contemplated packing the Supreme Court, to cite just one example). This is the second point I want to make.

For a good discussion of how abnormally Democrats are behaving, I recommend this piece by Michael Lind. Unlike Rosen, a committed, long-time leftist, Lind has, at different times in his career, been on both sides of the political/ideological divide. He has two of the traits Rosen lacks — perspective and a measure of objectivity.

Lind makes a persuasive case that Democrats are departing, in important ways, from constitutional norms. He cites Barack Obama’s unconstitutional re-writing of immigration laws, once Obama concluded he couldn’t accomplish the re-writing in the normal way — by persuading Congress to make the changes and then signing them into law. He also cites Joe Biden’s unlawful reliance on OSHA as the basis for an executive order that requires employees of roughly two-thirds of the American workforce to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be fired.

One can agree or disagree with Lind’s discussion of these two acts and with his contention that American leftists have become “Jacobins.” But Lind at least makes an argument.

With Rosen, it’s all invective in service of the proposition that journalists should cover the two political parties differently, coupled with the dishonest claim that this isn’t really what he’s calling for.

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